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The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Maximus, (unknown-A.D.423)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433)
    Paulus Orosius, (A.D. c.375-c.418)
    Zacchaeus, (unknown - A.D. c.430)
    Sedulius, (Flourish in A.D. 435)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Proclus, (unknown-A.D. 447)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450)
    St. Basil of Seleucia, (unknown-A.D. 460)
    St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525)
St. Maximus, (unknown-A.D.423), Italian; bishop of Turin and theological writer, he assisted at the Council of Milan in 451, and that of Rome in 465. Maximus is believed to have been a native of Rhaetia.

"Peter received a greater grace than that which he had lost; for as a good shepherd he received the flock to keep, that so he who previously had shown himself so weak, might become a support to all men; and he who had trembled when tried by a question, might, by the firmness of his faith, establish the rest. In fine, on account of the solidity of his devotedness (to Christ), he is called the rock of the churches, as the Lord declares, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church." For he is called a rock, because he was the first to lay the foundations of the faith amongst the nations, and because, like a universal rock, he binds together (or, encloses) the compacted mass of the whole structure of Christianity. Peter, therefore, is called a rock on account of his devotedness; while the Lord is called a rock on account of His power, as Paul says, "But they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ."

Hom,, iv. De Petro, t. vi. Bib. Maxim. SS. PP. p. 24.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 42-43

"Of how great merit before his God was Peter, that, after rowing his little boat, there should be consigned to him the helms of the whole Church."

Hom. iii. De Eod. Fest. ib. p. 35.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 43

"Both these Apostles (Peter and Paul) received keys from the Lord; the latter of knowledge, the former of power; Peter dispenses the riches of immortality, Paul bestows the treasures of knowledge. . . . They, therefore, tower above all the rest of the Apostles, and excel them by a kind of special prerogative. But which of the two is to be preferred before the other is uncertain; for I think them equal in merits, for they are equal in their passion, and equally devoted to the faith did they live whom we see attain together the glory of martyrdom."

Hom. v. De Eod. Fest. p. 36, t. vi. Bib. Max. SS. PP.p. 36.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 43-44

"On account of this confession, the blessed Apostle merited to hear from the mouth of the Lord, "Thou art Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church." That is, thou art the first to confess me on earth, and I will make thee have a perpetual primacy in Heaven, and in my kingdom. And what more just than that the Church should be built on him, who gives so mighty a foundation to the Church? What could be more religiously done, than that he should receive the keys of Heaven, he who revealed the Lord of the heavenly kingdom; inasmuch as he who opened to believers the gates of faith, the same should also open for them the gates of Heaven ?"

Serm. lxxii. De Dict. Ev. "Vos estis sal terrm" Galland. t. ix. p. 393.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 44

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

Who is ignorant that the first of the Apostles is the most blessed Peter?

Commentary on John 56:1 [A.D. 416]

"Of this Church, Peter the Apostle, on account of the primacy of his apostleship, bore a character which represented the whole Church. For as to what personally regards him, he was by nature but one man, by grace one Christian, by a more abundant grace, one, and that the first, Apostle; but, when there was said to him, "I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth will be bound in Heaven..." he signified the whole Church, which, in this world, is, by divers trials, as it were by rains, rivers, and tempests, agitated, but falls not, because it was built upon a rock, whence Peter derived his name. For a rock (petra) is not derived from Peter (Petro), but Peter from a rock, as Christ is not derived from Christian, but Christian from Christ. For therefore does the Lord say, "Upon this rock I will build my Church", because Peter had said, "Thou art Christ the Son of the living God." Upon this rock, therefore, which thou hast confessed, I will build my Church. For Christ was the rock: upon which foundation of Peter himself was built. "For other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus." The Church therefore which is founded on Christ, received, in Peter, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven from him, that is, the power of binding and of loosing sins."

T. iii. Tract. cxxiv. in Joan. n. 5, col. 2470.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 40-42

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers". His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

"And if you would have the authority of a greater individual ... let us interrogate the greatest; that disciple amongst the disciples; that teacher amongst the teachers, who ruling the helm of the Roman Church, as he had the primacy of faith, so also had he the primacy of the priesthood. Tell us, then, tell us, we beseech thee, O Peter, prince of the Apostles, how the churches are to believe in God: for it is just that thou shouldst teach us, who wast thyself taught of the Lord; and that thou shouldst open to us the gate, of which thou didst receive the key.

Exclude all those who are undermining the heavenly house; turn away those who are striving to enter through false caverns and unlawful gates; since it is certain that no one can enter in at the gate of the kingdom, but he unto whom the key, placed by thee in the churches, shall open it."

De Incarn. l. iii. p. 78; t. vii. Bibl. Maxim. SS. PP.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 49

Paulus Orosius (A.D. c.375-c.418), Spanish; a Christian historian, theologian, student and friend of Augustine of Hippo. He is best known for his "Seven Books of History Against the Pagans". His "History of the World" is valuable, and has been frequently translated.

"Did Christ address these words to thee (Pelagius): "Amen I say to thee, that flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in Heaven ?" Did He say to thee, "Thou shalt be called Cephas? Was it to thee that He gave this assurance, "Upon this rock I will build my Church?"

De Liber. Arbit. t. vi. Bib. Max. SS. PP. p. 457
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 44-46

Zacchaeus, (unknown - A.D. c.430), name of a fabricated writer under which he defends Christianity. His real name seems to be Evagrius, who flourished in the late 4th century.

"But these men (Novatians) will deny that, despite the aid of whatever penitence you may imagine, they have power to forgive grievous sins; though they know that it is a part of their office and profession, either to bind the hardened, or to loose the sins that have been expiated; that sentence of our Saviour addressed to Peter,— into whose person the power of all priests is gathered together,— clearly teaching that, "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven, ..." (St. Matthew 16:19) Leave, therefore, has been given to forgive sins without any exception,

L. ii. Consult. Zach. c. xviii. Galland, t. ix. p. 238.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 45-46

Sedulius (Flourish in A.D. 435) A priest and poet whose principal work was a poem in five books called "Carmen paschale". The first book contains a summary of the Old Testament; the four others a summary of the New Testament. A prose introduction dedicates the work to a priest named Macedonius.

"The Lord benignantly asks Peter whether he loved Him? and desirous, as a good shepherd, to increase His flocks, He commits to him, as to a most faithful, or tried servant, His sheep and His lambs, on his answering at once that he did love Him. . . . That He assigns to Peter especially the dignity of feeding His flocks, though He showed that He bore equal love towards all of them, was no detriment to the rest, but is seen to be connected with a motive."

Carm. Paschal. l. v. c. 23, p. 599, t. ix. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 58

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

Commenting on, "Thou art Simon, the son of Jona, thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter (John 1:42):

"He no longer calls him Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already, as having become His own. But by a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word petra (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church."

T iv. Comm. in Joan, in loc. p. 131.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 46

"They (the Apostles) strove to learn through one, that preeminent one, Peter."

T ix. Comm. in Joan, p. 736.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 46

"That the Spirit is God we shall also learn hence. That prince of the Apostles, to whom flesh and blood, as the Saviour says, "did not reveal" the divine mystery, says to Ananias, "Why hath Satan tempted thy heart?"

T. v. Par. 1, Thesaur. p. 340.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 46

St. Proclus, (unknown-A.D. 447), a friend and disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was placed on the patriarchal chair of Constantinople in 434. He appears to have been wise, moderate, and conciliatory, desirous, while strictly adhering to Orthodoxy himself, to win over those who differed from him by persuasion rather than force. He is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church.

Peter, the coryphaeus of the disciples, and the one set over (or the chief of) the Apostles. . . . Art not thou he that didst say,

"Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God?"

Thou Bar-Jonas (son of the dove) hast thou seen so many miracles, and art thou still but Simon (a hearer)? He appointed thee the key-bearer of Heaven, and hast thou not as yet laid aside thy fisherman's clothing?"

Or. viii. In Dom. Transfig. t. ix. Galland. pp. 650-1.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 48

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Having quoted St. Luke 22:31-32, he says,

"For as I, Christ said, despised not thee when thou wast shaken, so do thou also be a support to thy brethren when troubled, and grant them that help of which thou hast partaken, and do not cast down the falling, but raise up those who are in danger. For, for this cause do I let thee to stumble first, but permit thee not to fall, providing stability, through thee, for the wavering. Thus did this great pillar support the tottering world, and suffered it not in any wise to fall, but placed it upright, and made it firm, and received a command to feed the Lord's sheep."

T. iii. Orat. de Carit.p. 1309.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 47

St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450), deacon, bishop of Imola and Ravenna, and Doctor of the Church, his piety and zeal won for him universal admiration, and his oratory merited for him the name Chrysologus, meaning: golden-worded or golden mouth.

"As Peter obtained his name from a rock, because he was the first that merited to found the Church by the firmness of his faith, so Stephen was so called from a crown, because he was the first who merited to engage in conflict for the name of Christ. . . . Let Peter hold his long-established primacy over the apostolic choir; let him open the kingdom of Heaven for those who enter in; let him with power bind the guilty; with clemency absolve the penitent."

Serm. cliv. p. 217.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 50

St. Basil of Seleucia, (unknown-A.D. 460), Bishop and ecclesiastical writer, distinguished during the period when the Eastern Church was convulsed by the Monophysite struggles, and was necessarily obliged to take sides in all those controversies. Those of his writings which have come down to us, though somewhat too rhetorical and involved, prove clearly that he was a man of great literary ability.We have forty homilies of his in the Paris edition from Gregory Thaumaturgus. 1632

"Peter that leader (coryphaeus) of the Apostles, that ruler of the disciples of Christ, that accurate expositor of the revelations from the Father, he who walked on the waves of the sea." (Matthew 14:29)

Orat. xvi. p. 97; In Ed. Op. S. Greg. Thaum. Paris, 1622.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 48-49

St. Avitus, (Alcimus Ecdicius), (A.D. c.470-525), a Latin poet and Anti-Arian archbishop of Vienne in Gaul, born of a prominent Gallo-Roman senatorial family

"Peter, the head of the Apostles, that is, the prince of the princes."

Fragm. i. p. 746, t. x. Galland.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 26-27



Catholics believe, that unique and superior powers were given to St. Peter and His successors by Christ, and that the bishop of Rome, as his successor, is the head of the whole Catholic Church. For this reason, what the Early Church Fathers referred to as the Church of Rome, we refer to today as the Roman Catholic Church; being a universal visible body, united under one visible head.


The Church's Scriptures that support the Primacy of Peter in the Church:


Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 When Jesus came into the region of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."


Matthew 16:13-19

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial but prays for his (singular) faith.

31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (second person plural pronoun, meaning "all of you") that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee (singular, Peter) that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

Luke 22:31-32

Christ, after His resurrection, commissioned St. Peter to feed His lambs, and to feed His sheep, i.e., to be Shepherd over the whole flock:

15 "When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again: Simon son of John, do you love me? He saith to Him: Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love you. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17 He saith to him the third time: Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved, because He had said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to Him: Lord, Thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love Thee. He said to him : Feed my sheep."

John 21:15-17

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